Around 50 people came out to the Buena Vista Community Center Tuesday night for an update on the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s Brown’s Canyon National Monument Resource Management Plan.
The RMP, an update to the plan that has been in place since 1996, is a steering document that guides land managers for the monument in how the community wants it to utilize the land.
The Forest Service intends to have the new document finalized in June 2020. Public comment on the plan will be open until Jan. 2, 2020.
Joe Viera, the national monument project manager, said that options for how the plan could be modified have been presented to the public in three alternatives, although the final composition of the new RMP to be passed next summer will more realistically be a combination of elements from each.
Alternative A is simply to do nothing – to keep the 1996 plan as it stands.
Alternative B focuses on conservation, maintaining present recreation opportunities in the Monument, but strictly limiting further development of that use.
Alternative C, which Viera said was the Forest Service’s preferred alternative after an initial round of public comment that opened this summer, would open up the monument for more recreational use.
Viera said that the group received 125 unique comment letters during the initial public comment phase, which were analyzed as presenting 472 individual comment topics with a heavy focus on recreation, travel and transportation.
The public comment period brought out the full gamut of opinions on the use of drones, or UAVs, in the monument, from asking for a strict ban to a fully permissive policy, Viera said.
Respondents were also concerned about land managers’ tools and systems for monitoring the health of resources in the monument, he said.
While Alternative C is the preferred alternative, “Alternative C is not our decision,” Viera said. ‘”It will more likely look as a combination of these things.”
The second round of public comment is open until Jan 2. Once the proposed RMP is released next year, a public review and protest period will be open from April to May. The proposal will also be sent to the governor of Colorado for review.
The draft management plan, which includes each alternative in depth, the reasoning for selecting Alternative C as the preferred alternative, as well as a public alternative proposed by the Friends of Browns Canyon, can be read at the Buena Vista and Salida libraries, at the USFS Ranger District office in Salida, the BLM Royal Gorge field office in Cañon City, as well as online at https://go.usa.gov/xn2eC
Public Comments can be submitted online at the e-planning site above, or by US Mail delivered to BCNM RMP/EIS, 5575 Cleora Road, Salida, CO 81201.